Preliminary figures show that 2013 may have been the biggest year ever for charitable donations, according to a Dallas-based group that mines economic data to come up with its numbers.
More Americans donated money for human needs and disaster relief services both here and abroad in 2013, making it the fastest growing category of generosity.
The Atlas of Giving said that charitable donations from the U.S. reached $416.5 billion.
That would be up 12.9% from $368.8 billion in 2012, according to Rob Mitchell, the group's chief executive. It also marks the third straight year of growth since the low point of $316.5 billion in 2009, the year the recession ended.
The Atlas of Giving estimates charitable giving with an algorithm that incorporates specific economic, demographic and event factors, but those factors affect some kinds of giving more than others.
"One of the things that has really driven charitable numbers has been the ramp up in the stock market," Mitchell said in an interview. "When stock values are high, it makes a huge difference in the amount of money going into education, but it has little or no impact on religious donations, which rely on lots of small gifts from individuals."
Mitchell said that people who can afford only to make small donations are still suffering from the lasting effects of the recession and high unemployment.
Where the charitable dollars went in 2013:
-- Money for religious causes rose 8.6% in 2013 to $143.1 billion, up from $131.8 billion in 2012. Religious donations as a share of all giving fell from 36% to 35%.
-- Education causes grabbed the second biggest share at 16%, which was unchanged from 2012, but those numbers also rose by 15.7% to $68.2 billion, up from $58.9 billion
-- Human needs/Disaster Services, now the third biggest and fastest growing category at 11% of all giving, was up 18.7% to $49.6 billion compared to $41.8 billion in 2012.
-- Health-related causes pulled in $32.3 billion, up 10.8%.
Where the money came from:
-- Individuals donated 75% of all donations, the same percentage as in 2012. The dollar amount rose to $310.8 billion from $276.6 billion
-- Foundation donations grew by fastest amount, to $57.8 billion, up 18.6% from $48.7 billion.
-- Corporations accounted for $20.1 billion, or 9.7%, of donations last year, up from $18.4 billion in 2012.
-- Bequests or so-called legacy gifts on behalf of deceased people amounted to $27.9 billion, up from $25.1 billion in 2012.